Many people opt for used cars as a means of saving money. And while it’s true that used cars are usually much less expensive than comparable new cars, there are potential hidden costs. Sometimes what appear to be the best cars are actually bad deals. Fortunately, there are several strategies that can minimize the risks associated with purchasing a used car.
Doing the Research — Why It's Important
Buying a car is often the most important investment anyone makes — second only to purchasing a home. And while savvy home buyers would never consider purchasing a home without ordering an inspection, all too often car purchases are made on the basis of looks or a rock-bottom price. As a result, buyers are frequently stuck with lemons that are unreliable and unsafe, generating repair costs that wipe out any savings they might have had buying used. But that doesn’t mean that buying a used car is a bad idea.
Instead, it’s necessary to practice due diligence by performing careful research.
Checking Out Used Cars
The internet has made researching used cars a snap. In addition to detailed descriptions, some online sites include performance reviews, cost of ownership figures, and statements from owners, including car complaints. You can even do much or all of your research with your cell phone or tablet with dedicated iOS and Android apps and mobile-friendly websites.
However, sites and apps associated with selling cars should be approached with caution. While some sites, such as National Auto Dealers Association (NADA), don’t emphasize a hard sale approach, others engage in disreputable practices such as paid reviews or fudged feedback that disguise car complaints. Instead, stick with well-known, reliable sources with an established reputation, such as those listed below:
- Car and Driver
- Consumer Reports
- Kelley Blue Book
- Motor Trend
- U.S. News and World Reports
Obtaining a vehicle history report for a used car is also advisable. Many dealers provide vehicle history reports for free as evidence that they offer the best cars and deals available. If not, the cost should be less than $50 for a detailed report that includes the number of previous owners, service history and other vital information, along with uncovering red flags such as involvement in a major accident. And while a vehicle history report should not replace a pre-purchase inspection by a mechanic, the report can provide guidance for the mechanic in performing the inspection.
When obtaining a vehicle history report, stick with reputable sites such as the three listed below.
- Auto Check
- Auto DNA
Running a check of the car’s vehicle identification number (VIN) can provide a wealth of information, including total mileage, whether the car has ever been reported as stolen, and the title history for the car. VIN reports are often available for no charge. The three sites listed below provide free, comprehensive VIN reports:
- National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB)
- Vehicle History
Finally, checking the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) site is a must. The NHTSA site includes potentially life-saving information about safety and reliability issues that are often missing from review reports. The NHTS site also includes information about recalls, which often do not occur until after a particular model has been on the market for years.
Using PMC to Protect Your New Used Car
Once you’ve found a great deal on a reliable set of wheels, it’s not quite time to relax. You still need to obtain protection for your new used car. That means insurance, of course, but also purchasing an extended warranty. While some dealers offer warranties with used cars, the terms are often limited. And a large proportion of used cars are sold “as is” with no warranty. Protect My Car is committed to providing top notch protection for cars up to 10 years old, with fewer than 125,000 miles. The investment you make now will save you thousands down the road in repair costs — not to mention providing peace of mind.
Getting the Best Deal on a Used Car
If you’re buying a used car, due diligence is a must. Checking out review sites and obtaining vehicle history reports and VIN checks can help ensure that your new ride is reliable. Checking out the NHTSA recall site provides an extra measure of assurance that the car has not been subject to a recall. Purchasing an extended warranty from Protect My Car covers the costs of expensive repairs — helping to ensure a smooth ride with your new used car for years to come.